Built Upon the Rock
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

Chapter 6:  The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ

Fundamental Belief #9 In Christ’s life of perfect obedience to God’s will, His suffering, death, and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for human sin, so that those who by faith accept this atonement may have eternal life, and the whole creation may better understand the infinite and holy love of the Creator.  This perfect atonement vindicates the righteousness of God’s law and the graciousness of His character; for it both condemns our sin and provides for our forgiveness.  The death of Christ is substitutionary and expiatory, reconciling and transforming.  The resurrection of Christ proclaims God’s triumph over the forces of evil and, for those who accept the atonement, assures their final victory over sin and death.  It declares the Lordship of Jesus Christ, before whom every knee in heaven and on earth will bow.
[John 3:16; Isaiah 53; 1 Peter 2:21-22; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 20-22; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 19-21; Romans 1:4; 3:25; 4:25; 8:3-4; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Colossions 2:15; Philippians 2:6-11]

We now turn to the most important fundamental belief of the Seven-Day Adventist Church:  on the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  While we touched on this important truth in Chapter 4, “The Nature of Man,” we now look at it in much more detail.  This fundamental belief presents the sum total of the everlasting gospel, which God commissioned the Advent Movement to proclaim to all the world before the end of time.  This is the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14:

Revelation 14:6-7
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people.  He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come.  Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

As this fundamental belief indicates, “In Christ’s life of perfect obedience to God’s will, His suffering, death, and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for sin, so that those who by faith accept this atonement may have eternal life.”  This is the good news of the everlasting gospel that qualifies all believers for heaven, now and in the last-day judgment.

It also addresses one of the key prophecies Christ made regarding last-day events, prior to His Second Advent:

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

But before we can consider the nature of this incredibly good news, let us confront a major obstacle Satan has successfully used to deceive many Christians, as he did Eve, robbing them of the joy, peace, and assurance of salvation.  It is the problem of the two-dimensional gospel.

The Gospel’s Two Dimensions

The Bible presents two dimensions of salvation in the gospel — related, yet distinct.  On the one hand, the New Testament presents an objective or general salvation, full and complete.  This salvation was completed some 2,000 years ago in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Reformers of the Sixteenth Century referred to this salvation as an “alien righteousness,” since it was entirely God’s work in Christ, to which mankind contributed nothing.  Because it is a finished work, all verbs describing this dimension of salvation are in the past historic tense.  The completeness of this unilateral salvation is what makes the everlasting gospel such incredibly good news.

On the other hand, Scripture also presents salvation as a subjective or individual experience, in those who have obeyed the gospel by faith and are abiding in Christ.  The objective and subjective dimensions are related, yet, for purposes of discussion, must be addressed separately.  Failure to do so confuses the objective facts of salvation (a finished work) with the subjective experience of salvation (an ongoing experience), which continues until the Second Advent.  By confusing these two aspects of salvation, many have been robbed of the joy, peace, and assurance of making it to heaven and fail as witnesses for Christ.

What are the distinctions between the objective facts of the gospel and its subjective experience?  There are basically four:

  1. Universal vs. Individual.  The objective facts of the gospel are universal.  This aspect of salvation applies to the entire human race; none are excluded.  Here are just a few of many New Testament texts that point to the salvation of all mankind in Christ:

    John 3:16
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
    1 Timothy 2:5-6
    For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.  This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.
    Titus 2:11
    For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
    1 John 2:2
    He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

    The subjective experience of the gospel, on the other hand, is individual.  It applies only to those who by faith accept Christ as their personal Savior and abide in Him for their salvation:

    Mark 16:15-16
    He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
    John 5:24
    “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
    Romans 10:4
    Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
  2. Complete vs. Ongoing.  The objective fact of the gospel is that this part is already complete.  It is a finished work to which mankind can add absolutely nothing:

    John 17:3-4
    Now this is eternal life:  that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.
    John 19:30
    When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
    Ephesians 2:5-6
    [God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....

    This is how the birth of Christ was announced to the frightened shepherds of Bethlehem on Christmas night:

    Luke 2:10-11
    But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”  [Emphasis added.]

    This is what the objective gospel is all about.

    The subjective experience of the gospel, on the other hand, is an ongoing process.  This is the application, or fruits, of the gospel — the do’s and don’ts.  While this experience is important and varies in the lives of each believer, it does not contribute one iota to the believer’s acceptance before God.  Its primary purpose is to demonstrate to the world the power of the gospel and to give evidence of the believer’s salvation in Christ.

    Matthew 7:16-20
    By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
    John 13:34-35
    “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
    Titus 3:8
    This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
  3. Unconditional vs. Conditional.  The objective facts of the gospel are unconditional good news.  This salvation was motivated by God’s unconditional and everlasting agape-type love for the sinful human race.

    Jeremiah 31:3
    The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
    John 3:16
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
    Romans 5:5-10
    And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
    Ephesians 2:1-6
    As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....
    1 John 4:9-10
    This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

    The New Testament, therefore, presents the objective gospel as salvation by grace alone:

    Ephesians 2:8-9
    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

    Paul defines this objective gospel as “the righteousness of God”:

    Romans 1:16-17; 3:21
    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:  first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:  “The righteous will live by faith.” ...But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
    2 Timothy 1:8-10
    So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.  Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.  He has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

    By this he means that it was planned by God before the foundation of the world...

    Ephesians 1:4
    For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

    ...promised by God from the moment Adam and Eve sinned...

    Genesis 3:15
    “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

    ...and was kept alive by God throughout the Old Testament, especially through His visual aid of the Plan of Redemption, the earthly Sanctuary:

    Exodus 25:8
    “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”
    John 1:14
    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    Finally, this objective gospel became a complete reality in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ:

    Romans 1:1-4
    Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead:  Jesus Christ our Lord.

    In contrast, the subjective experience of the gospel is conditional.  To experience justification unto life one must believe the truth as it is in Christ (justification by faith):

    Romans 5:1
    Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....

    To experience sanctification or holy living, the believer must learn to walk in the Spirit:

    Galatians 5:16
    So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

    And, last of all, to experience glorification, the believer’s faith in Christ must endure to the very end:

    Matthew 10:22
    You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
    Hebrews 10:35-39
    So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”
    And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
    But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
  4. Meritorious vs. Demonstrative.  Finally, only the objective facts of the gospel are meritorious.  This is the part that qualifies believers for heaven, now and in the judgment:

    John 5:24
    “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
    Romans 3:28; 4:5
    For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.  ...However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
    Galatians 2:16
    ...Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
    1 John 4:16-18
    And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment:  In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

    This is why the words in the Adventist fundamental belief — “the life, death, and resurrection of Christ” — are the most important.  Failure to realize this truth has produced fear of the Investigative Judgment in the lives of many Adventists.

    The subjective experience of the gospel, on the other hand, is entirely demonstrative.  Its purpose is to give evidence of the power of the gospel in the lives of those who are abiding in Christ by faith:

    Ephesians 2:10
    For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
    Titus 3:8
    This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

The Problem Defined

Many unfortunate Christians, however, continue to depend on their subjective Christian experience to gain them acceptance before God.  And because this sanctification is an ongoing process, with many failures along the way, they often come to believe that they are not good enough to be saved.  The ValueGenesis survey, conducted in the late 1980s among Adventist young people in the North American Division, documents this.  The vast majority of the young people who took that survey said they had no assurance of salvation.  When asked why, they typically replied, “Our behavior does not measure up to God’s requirements.”

To understand this fundamental belief, Christians must recognize the distinction between the good news of the objective gospel which saves all mankind (unless individually rejected), and the subjective experience of those who accept that salvation.  Good works are a natural outgrowth of the power of the gospel working within those who accept Christ’s salvation.  We must keep this distinction clearly in mind, as we study this important fundamental belief of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

This chapter — on the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ — will focus primarily on the objective facts of the gospel.  We will look more at the subjective experience of the gospel next chapter.

The apostle Paul writes that the objective gospel is the foundation of salvation:

1 Corinthians 3:11
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid [past tense], which is Jesus Christ.

This is the objective fact of the gospel.  Using building materials as a metaphor for the subjective Christian experience of believers, he then adds in verses 12 and 13

1 Corinthians 3:12-13
If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day [judgment or the Great Tribulation] will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.

The Situation in Adam

The objective gospel is God’s solution to the universal sin problem inherited from Adam.  Therefore, to fully appreciate the good news of this objective gospel, it is helpful to review the nature of the sin problem.

The New Testament tells us that the human race today is the multiplication, or extension, of Adam’s life (Genesis 1:27-28). 

Genesis 1:27-28
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

We read:

Acts 17:26
From one man he [God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

The life Adam passed on to his posterity was tainted with his sin, in at least four distinct ways:

  1. First, the moment Adam sinned, the Holy Spirit was forced to leave Him, for, in sinning, Adam turned his back on His Creator and gave his allegiance to another.  Adam’s life was plunged into darkness and he became spiritually dead.  Likewise, human beings today are born without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — that is, they are spiritually dead.  Several texts in both old and new Testaments clearly bring this out:

    Isaiah 9:2
    The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
    John 12:35, 46
    Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer.  Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.  Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.  ...I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
    Romans 13:12
    The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.  So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
    Ephesians 5:8
    For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light....
  2. Second, at the Fall, Adam’s life was taken captive by Satan, and mankind from birth since then has been subject to his kingdom.  In tempting Christ in the wilderness, he underscores this reality:
    Luke 4:5-6
    The devil led him [Christ] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world [the entire human race].  And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.”

    Christ does not challenge Satan’s claim to world sovereignty and, in fact, underscores it often by referring to Satan as the prince, or ruler of the world:

    John 12:31; 14:30
    Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.  ...I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming.  He has no hold over me....

    The apostle Paul himself refers to Satan as “the god of this age”:

    2 Corinthians 4:3-4
    And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  3. Third, Adam’s life became enslaved to sin at the Fall, and his descendants all share that fate.  Jesus made this clear to the self-righteous Jews of His day:

    John 8:34
    Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

    The apostle Paul confirms this reality in Romans and elsewhere:

    Romans 7:14
    We know that the law is spiritual; but I [corporate I] am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
    Romans 3:9-20
    What shall we conclude then?  Do we have any advantage?  Not at all!  For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.  As it is written:
    “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
    “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.”
    “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
    “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
    “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”
    “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
    Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

    The word “under” was used in Paul’s day to refer to slaves who were totally dominated, or ruled, by masters.

  4. Fourth, the moment Adam sinned, his life came under the condemnation of death; he was cut off from the life Source forever.  God had made it abundantly clear to him, in advance:

    Genesis 2:16-17
    And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

    According to the apostle Paul, this disconnectedness with the Source of life was passed along to his descendants:

    Romans 5:18
    Consequently, just as one trespass [Adam’s] resulted in condemnation [unto death] for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
    1 Corinthians 15:21-22
    For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

    The New Testament refers to this ruined life received from fallen Adam with the Greek word bios.  In both Luke 8:14 and 1 John 2:15-16, the word “life” in the original is bios:

    Luke 8:14
    The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
    1 John 2:15-16
    Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.

    This bios is far different than the life God breathed into Adam at creation, which the New Testament refers to with the Greek word zoe (more on this word later).

    It is from this Greek word bios that we get the English word “biography,” which usually tells the story of an individual’s birth, life, and death.  Mankind is incapable of redeeming itself from the limitations of bios.  The human race desperately needs a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus Christ.  This is where the objective facts of the gospel come into play.  The incredibly good news of the everlasting gospel is that, in Christ, mankind is freed from the bonds of bios.

The Objective Facts of the Gospel

The objective facts of the gospel comprise four major events in Christ’s earthly mission.  Each of them is vital to the Plan of Salvation.

  1. His Birth.  Apart from the Christmas celebration, Christ’s birth receives little theological attention in the objective gospel (including the Adventist fundamental belief).  Yet His birth plays a vital part in mankind’s redemption.

    Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the second person of the Godhead, entered Satan’s domain as a human baby.  This is the mystery of the incarnation, where, through the Holy Spirit, God united the corporate, sinful, condemned bios-life of the human race to the sinless, divine, eternal life of His Son, Jesus Christ.

    Luke 1:30-35
    But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
    “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
    The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

    The New Testament refers to this sinless, eternal, divine life of Christ with the Greek word zoe.  Here are a few examples:

    John 1:4; 8:12
    In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  ...When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
    Romans 5:10, 17-18
    For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  ...For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

    This is the same life God breathed into Adam at creation, for the word “life” used in Genesis 2:7, in the Greek Old Testament (LXX), is zoe:

    Genesis 2:7
    Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

    Unfortunately, both bios and zoe are translated to English simply as “life,” which makes it difficult to distinguish between man’s condemned bios-life and the sinless, eternal zoe-life of Christ.  Yet the two are worlds apart in meaning.

    The union between Christ’s eternal, divine zoe with mankind’s corporate, condemned bios at the incarnation saved no one.  But it did legally qualify Christ to represent and, in fact, become a substitute for the human race.  At the incarnation:

    John 1:14
    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    Thus Christ, the God-Man, became the second, or last, Adam:

    1 Corinthians 15:45
    So it is written:  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

    The word “adam” means mankind in Hebrew.  In Genesis 5:2, the word “mankind” is “adam” in the original:

    Genesis 5:2
    He created them male and female and blessed them.  And he named them “Mankind” [“adam”] when they were created.

    Incidentally, the word “Adam” appears some 510 times in Scripture but seldom as a proper name.  Usually it signifies the human race, in solidarity — the many in one.  Thus Christ, the last Adam, was the sum total of the entire fallen human race.

    Scripture presents only two instances of one man representing the entire race.  The first Adam knowingly disconnected himself and his lineage from the Source of life; the second, or last Adam, reversed the damage by His life and death:

    1 Corinthians 15:45-49
    So it is written:  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.  The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.  The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.  As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.  And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

    Through the incarnation, Jesus assumed the heredity of Adam and gathered it up in Himself.  Thus, His victorious history became the history of the entire human race.  This is the good news of the objective gospel, available for the claiming by every individual through faith in Christ.

    John 3:16
    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    Thus, God could justify mankind in Christ and still maintain the integrity of His holy law, by which, otherwise, all are condemned.

    Now, God’s law will not allow an innocent individual to be punished on behalf of a guilty person, and this has caused some confusion among Christians and non-Christians, especially Muslims who accuse Christians of “legal fiction.”

    Deuteronomy 24:16
    Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.
    Ezekiel 18:20
    The one who sins is the one who will die.  The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.  The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

    What we must understand is that, once Christ became the second, or last, Adam (corporate or collective mankind), He was legally qualified to represent the human race during His earthly mission.  This is what qualified Christ to be a substitute for the human race, since he became the human race, all in One.

  2. The Life of Christ.  Once fully qualified as a legal redeemer of Adam’s race, Christ needed to overcome where Adam had failed — by fully satisfying God’s holy law on mankind’s behalf.  That law is very specific:  obey and live; disobey and die.  So, in His earthly mission, Christ first met the positive demands of God’s law (obey and live).  He Himself said to the Jews of His day:

    Matthew 5:17
    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

    Thus, from His birth to manhood (age 30 in the Bible) Christ met all the positive demands of the law, in the power of the Holy spirit...

    Luke 4:14
    Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

    ...and could claim:

    John 14:30
    I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world [Satan] is coming.  He has no hold over me....

    In thought, word, and deed, Christ kept the divine law.  This perfect, sinless obedience fulfilled, in fact, what the Sanctuary service (God’s Old Testament visual aid for the Plan of Redemption) symbolized with spotless sacrificial animals.  The spotlessness represented Christ’s perfect obedience to the positive demands of the law (obey and live), necessary for the salvation of mankind.

    Perfect obedience alone did not perfectly fulfill the law, however, for the law specifies that those who disobey its demands must die, and:

    Romans 3:23
    ...For all [human beings] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God....

    Unless Christ fulfilled this second demand, He could not be mankind’s righteousness, since:

    Ezekiel 18:20a
    The one who sins is the one who will die.

    Thus, after perfectly obeying the positive demands of the law, Christ went to the cross to meet its justice.  In the Sanctuary service, the spotless animal was killed and its body was consumed by God’s fire on the brazen altar.  This burning represented the wrath of God poured out against the sum total of mankind’s sin — in the person of Jesus. 

    Isaiah 53:6, 8, 10-11
    We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  ...By oppression and judgment he was taken away.  Yet who of his generation protested?  For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.  ...Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.  After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
    John 1:29
    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

    This brings us to the third event in Christ’s redemptive history.

  3. The Death of Christ.  As quoted above, the apostle Paul makes it clear “all (Jews and Gentiles) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  To meet the just demands of God’s holy law, therefore, Christ had to be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross:

    Philippians 2:6-8
    Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!
    Galatians 3:13
    Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

    Referring to His death on the cross, Jesus prayed:

    John 17:4
    I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

    Only when Christ met this second demand of the law could He cry out, “It is finished”:

    John 19:30
    When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

    Thus, by His perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross, Christ forever became “Our Righteousness.”  This is why the Father commissioned His Son to join with humanity in its sin-cursed world:

    John 3:17
    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world [though the human race deserved it], but to save the world through him.

    Those who understand this incredibly good news of the objective gospel will join the apostle Paul with heartfelt praise:

    2 Corinthians 9:15
    Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

    While Christ Himself was tasting the second death for everyone on the cross...

    Matthew 27:45-46
    From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.  About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
    Hebrews 2:9
    But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

    ...the collective bios-type life of the human race was dying in Him, never to rise again:

    Romans 6:23
    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    In exchange, out of pure agape-level love, God gave the human race the eternal zoe-life of His Son, in the resurrection:

    2 Corinthians 5:14, 17
    For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  ...Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!

    Thus, by His perfect life and sacrificial death, Christ earned the legal right to take to heaven every individual who accepted Him as Savior.  He confirmed this after His resurrection when He declared to His disciples:

    Matthew 28:18-20a
    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [by the Father].  Therefore go and make disciples [believers] of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    We now turn to the final event in the objective gospel.

  4. The Resurrection of Christ.  The redemption of the human race was totally fulfilled on the cross when Christ cried out, “It is finished.”  This is the significance of the seventh-day Sabbath, which points to God’s perfect and finished work on the sixth day (whether creative or redemptive).

    The resurrection of Christ, therefore, did not add anything to mankind’s salvation but, rather, confirmed it.  Had Christ failed to fully meet the demands of the law, even in a single point, the Father would not have had the legal right to raise His Son from the dead.

    Romans 1:1-4
    Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead:  Jesus Christ our Lord.

    The apostle Paul made it clear that the resurrection of Christ from the dead qualified Him to be mankind’s justification:

    Romans 4:25
    He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

    It bears underscoring here that on the cross of Christ the condemned bios-life of the collective human race died the Second Death forever.  The apostle Paul expresses it this way (emphasis mine):

    2 Corinthians 5:14
    For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

    Unless this were true, justification by faith would become simply a “legal fiction” conducive to cheap grace.

    Romans 6:1-2, 7-8
    What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  ...Because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
    2 Timothy 2:11
    Here is a trustworthy saying:  If we died with him, we will also live with him....

    Because God so loved the world, however, He gave the eternal zoe-life of His Son to the human race, at the resurrection.  The apostle John explains:

    1 John 5:11-12
    And this is the testimony:  God has given us [mankind] eternal life [zoe], and this life [zoe]is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life [zoe]; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life [zoe].

    This whole objective gospel is defined by the In Christ motif or idea, the central theme of Paul’s theology.  The Pauline expression, In Christ, or its equivalent (in Him, together with Him, in the Beloved, etc.) appears some 64 times in his epistles and sums up his exposition of the objective gospel, as well as the subjective experience of believers.

    Ephesians 2:5-10; 3:8
    [God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  ...Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me:  to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ....

The Three Angels’ Messages

At the very beginning of this chapter, we noted that the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ are identified with the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14.  This three-part series of messages lies uniquely at the very core of the Adventist Church’s global mission.

I firmly believe that God raised up the Advent movement in order to fully restore the objective facts of the everlasting gospel and proclaim it to the whole world.  These messages are a fulfillment of the last signs of the times that Christ predicted would take place before the end:

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The First Angel’s Message

The First Angel’s Message is clear and straightforward:

Revelation 14:6
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people.

This is an end-time message that will be proclaimed for a witness when “the hour of judgment has come”:

Revelation 14:7
He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come.  Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

It will be presented as such incredibly good news that all who have reached the age of accountability will make a deliberate choice, either for Christ or against Him.  The objective gospel will be used in the judgment as a witness, or testimony, against all who purposely reject the gift of salvation in Christ.

Hebrews 2:1-4
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?  This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church recognizes its responsibility to carry this judgment-hour message to the world, and this sets it apart as more than just another denomination.  Adventists believe they have been called and commissioned specifically by God to restore the clear teachings of the objective facts of the everlasting gospel.  When that happens, one truth will prevail, one subject will swallow all others — Christ our righteousness.  Note how Ellen G. White expresses it:

Sons and Daughters of God, pg. 259
“As Christ’s ambassadors, they [referring to Adventists] are to search the Scriptures, to seek the truths that have been hidden beneath the rubbish of error.  And every ray of light received is to be communicated to others.  One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other, Christ our righteousness.”

This is the last-day Elijah message that will prepare a people to meet Christ at His Second Coming, without tasting death.  This will be the remnant, the faithful ones who will withstand Armageddon (the great tribulation of the last days) and vindicate the power of the gospel:

Revelation 12:17
Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring — those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.
Revelation 16:13-16
Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.  They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.  “Look, I come like a thief!  Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.” Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

Seventh-Day Adventists, therefore, clearly must understand the significance and purpose of the Three Angels’ Messages, for the devil is fully aware of the Great Commission God has given the Adventist Movement.  So he does everything in his power to frustrate God’s purpose and sidetrack us from our God-given tasks.  But God’s purpose will triumph, and the truth as it is in Christ will be restored and proclaimed with great power in all the world:

Revelation 18:1
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.

According to Hebrews 1:14, angels are “ministering spirits send forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.”

Hebrews 1:14
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

The three angels of Revelation 14, there, represent God’s prophetic people with a mission to proclaim the objective facts of the everlasting gospel before the end comes.

The Meaning of Everlasting

The gospel is referred to as “everlasting” for two reasons.  First, God planned this gospel from eternity.  Christ, we read, is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”:

Revelation 13:8
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
Ephesians 1:4
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Second, the gospel is everlasting because its effects are eternal — everlasting life:

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 5:11-12
And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

God’s plan for saving fallen humanity is one, and one only — the objective gospel laid down from eternity.  David declares of the gospel:

Psalm 103:17
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children....

Paul tells Timothy that Christ saved the world by grace “before time began:

2 Timothy 1:9
He has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time....

The Second Angel’s Message

After the first angel, comes a second:

Revelation 14:8
A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”

The word “followed” in the original actually means “to join with.”  The second angel joins the first angel in proclaiming the everlasting gospel, but adds that “Babylon” has fallen because she has made all nations accept her perverted gospel.  The word “Babylon” and the idea of its fall comes from Daniel 5, and is used here to represent the fall of modern, spiritual Babylon.

The Semitic root words that form “Babylon” are Bab-el, the “gate of heaven,” the dwelling place of God.  Those who deliberately reject the objective facts of the everlasting gospel and try to reach heaven by their own good works (in the manner of the builders of the Tower of Babel), commit the sin of Babylon.  This is the false wine that brings God’s wrath on them.

Revelation 18:1-6
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.  With a mighty voice he shouted:  “‘Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great!’  She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.  For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries.  The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
Then I heard another voice from heaven say:  “‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.  Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done.  Pour her a double portion from her own cup.”

Daniel 5 says that the ancient city of Babylon fell because its king, Belshazzar, deliberately desecrated God’s sacred temple vessels and refused to humble himself before the God of heaven, though he knew full well how his great-grandfather, King Nebuchadnezzar, had learned the hard way that the God of heaven controls the affairs of men:

Daniel 5:13-30
So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah?  I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom.  The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it.  Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems.  If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else.  Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
“Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor.  Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him.  Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled.  But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.  He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.
“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this.  Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven.  You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them.  You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand.  But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.  Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.
“This is the inscription that was written:  mene, mene, tekel, parsin.
“Here is what these words mean:
Mene:  God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel:  You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Peres:  Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain....

The deliberate sin of self-exaltation lies at the heart of the sin of Babylon.

Daniel 4:30
...He said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

Now the second angel declares that spiritual Babylon is fallen because she has made all nations drink “the wine of the wrath of her fornication”:

Revelation 14:8
A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”

Fornication consists of the unlawful physical union of two consenting parties.  Applied spiritually, it refers to the union of salvation by grace (God’s way) with salvation by works (man’s natural preference).  We could call this perverted message the “I plus Christ” gospel or the “I must do my best and Christ will make up the rest,” philosophy.  This is the same perverted gospel the Galatian Christians accepted in New Testament times:

Galatians 1:6-7
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 3:1-3
You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you:  Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish?  After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
Galatians 5:4
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

The Third Angel’s Message

A third angel now joins the first two angels:

Revelation 14:9-10a
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice:  “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.

This third angel proclaims the objective facts of the everlasting gospel, but adds a significant warning, God’s final plea to a lost world.  This third angel makes it clear that the day of mercy is ending and that any who willfully turn their backs on Christ and His righteousness will have to experience the full wrath of God against sin.

Final Events

In Revelation 6:12-16, the apostle John vividly describes events that transpire under the sixth seal, before and during the Second Coming of Christ.

Revelation 6:12-16
I watched as he opened the sixth seal.  There was a great earthquake.  The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.  The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.  Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.  They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

This all-consuming day of God’s wrath sends “the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man” to hide themselves “in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,” and cry for the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

This naturally raises the question in verse 17:

Revelation 6:17
For the great day of His wrath has come, and who can withstand it?

The answer seems to be “no one.” But when we turn to Chapter 7, we find a special people, the remnant (the faithful ones), who do so.  But to do so, their faith must first be sealed, by a mark on their foreheads:

Revelation 7:2-3
Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God.  He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea:  “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

These are the “144,000” described in Revelation 7:4-8, who represent the last generation of Christians — those who fully obey the objective facts of the everlasting gospel.

Revelation 7:4-8
Then I heard the number of those who were sealed:  144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.  From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.

They are sealed in their foreheads because their minds have settled into the truth of the objective gospel, the unconditional agape-type love of God on which their salvation is based, and the truth as it is in Christ, their means of salvation.  Nothing can now shake their faith in Christ, though they will feel forsaken by Christ in the Time of Trouble:

Isaiah 54:5-8
For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.  “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.  In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.

These 144,000:

Revelation 14:4b
They follow the Lamb wherever he goes.  They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits [the first to attain full maturity of faith] to God and the Lamb.

In Revelation 12:17, we find that the dragon (Satan) “was enraged with the woman (the church that fully restores the objective truth of the everlasting gospel),” he does not make war with her, the church, but rather “with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God (not mechanically, but spiritually, see Romans 13:8-10, below) and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  These are the 144,000, the true remnant (see Chapter 10 for a detailed study of the 144,000).

Revelation 12:17
Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring — those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.
Romans 13:8-10
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

In complete contrast, the third angel of Revelation 14 describes those who deliberately and ultimately reject the everlasting gospel and receive the mark of the beast and his image.  The beast and his image represent the agents of Satan who oppose the everlasting gospel:

Revelation 13:2
The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.  The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.

“The dragon” is Satan:

Revelation 12:9
The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Satan and this beast, and all who follow them, will experience the full wrath of God at the end:

Revelation 20:7-10
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth — Gog and Magog — and to gather them for battle.  In number they are like the sand on the seashore.  They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves.  But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.  And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

The Wrath of God

The apostle Paul declares:

Romans 1:18
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness....

These have willfully turned their backs on Him:

Romans 1:20-23
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Three times in this one chapter, Paul defines the wrath of God as giving those who reject Him exactly what they have chosen:

Romans 1:24, 26, 28
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  ...Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.  Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  ...Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

Those who reject the good news of the everlasting gospel will indeed experience the wrath of God:

Revelation 14:10a
...They, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.

God still loves them, but if they willfully join the other side in the great controversy, God honors their choice.

This wrath of God experienced by believers at the end of time is referred to as God’s “unusual act” (or “alien task”):

Isaiah 28:21
The Lord will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim, he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon — to do his work, his strange work, and perform his task, his alien task.

This wrath is unusual for two reasons:  First, God so loved the world, that at tremendous cost to Himself, He gave His only begotten Son to redeem the entire human race:

John 3:16-18
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Romans 8:32
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
1 Timothy 2:5-6; 4:10
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.  This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.  ...That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
Titus 2:11
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

Second, God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”:

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The only possible way a person can lose salvation is willfully, knowingly, persistently, and ultimately to reject God’s supreme gift in Christ.  Only then God is left with no choice but to give them what they have chosen:

Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
John 3:18
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

God always respects mankind’s freedom of choice.

Who Will Experience Salvation?

The New Testament clearly teaches that God has redeemed all of humanity and reconciled it to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:18-21
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

He has given the whole human race a new history in Christ, the second, or last, Adam.  In that history, every human being stands objectively justified and reconciled to God:

Romans 5:10-18
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned —
To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.  Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:  The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

Yet, millions have not yet heard this incredibly good news of the objective gospel.  How will God deal with them in the judgment?

God has clearly put in the heart of every human being a measure of faith, a desire to follow the way of righteousness:

Romans 12:3
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Those who, through no fault of their own, never hear the good news of the everlasting gospel but who yield to the law written in their hearts will be vindicated in the judgment.  Paul mentions this in Romans and says they will be saved, not because of what they have done, but because they were faithful to the light they had, whatever that light may have been:

Romans 2:14-15
(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

God can take them legally to heaven because He has already and fully redeemed the entire human race in Christ:

1 Corinthians 1:30-31
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written:  “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

These will hear the good news of the gospel and the name Jesus for the first time in heaven:

The Desire of Ages, by Ellen G. White, pg. 638
“Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles.  Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them.  Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives.  Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish.  Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required.  Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.
“How surprised and gladdened will be the lowly among the nations, and among the heathen, to hear from the lips of the Saviour, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me’!  How glad will be the heart of Infinite Love as His followers look up with surprise and joy at His words of approval!”

But just prior to the Second Advent, none will be ignorant any longer of the incredibly good news of the objective gospel, for the whole world will have been illuminated by the glory of the truth, as it is in Christ:

Revelation 18:1-5
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.  With a mighty voice he shouted:  “‘Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great!’  She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.  For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries.  The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
Then I heard another voice from heaven say:  “‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.”

When this everlasting gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, it will be inexcusable for any to be lost.  And only at that point can God bring the sin-cursed world to an end, in righteousness.

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

A Paradigm Shift

Many years ago, a Swiss scientist invented the quartz watch and offered it to the Association of Swiss Watchmakers.  They were horrified:  “What!  No springs or internal moving parts!  Don’t you know that we are the experts in watchmaking and have mastered the trade?  How dare you insult us by offering us a watch that has no internal moving parts?” (At that time, 80 percent of the world’s watches came from Switzerland.)

Discouraged, but undaunted, the scientist showed his new invention at a trade show in Japan.  The Japanese grabbed the idea and, as a result, the Swiss market share has declined to only 10 percent of watches sold.  The Japanese were the ultimate winners; the Swiss lost out because there were unwilling to make a paradigm shift.

Likewise, mankind as a whole usually opposes anything non-traditional, including new ideas on the gospel.  This has become an unfortunate problem with historic Adventism and is why traditional Christianity is on the decline today, while the non-confirming and non-denominational churches are flourishing.  Rightly or wrongly, they have been willing to change to meet the demands of modern man.

If Adventists are ever to restore the objective facts of the everlasting gospel and the message of the three angels, “Christ Our Righteousness,” and proclaim it with a loud cry, they must be willing to accept a paradigm shift of what constitutes the true gospel message.  This will include a willingness to painfully swallow denominational pride.

Jews in New Testament times were asking, “Is Jesus Christ the true Messiah?”  No longer is this at issue among Christians today.  The big question is now, “Which view of Christ being preached today represents who He really is?”  For only the true Christ can set us free:

John 8:31-36
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The everlasting gospel God wants His followers to proclaim worldwide is not a rehash of the Reformation gospel.  It is not Calvinism, which proclaims “limited atonement,” nor Armenianism, which teaches “provisional or potential salvation” (the two main gospel emphases preached today within Protestantism).  The everlasting gospel is the restoration of the full and complete objective gospel, first proclaimed by the disciples:

Galatians 1:8-9
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  As we have already said, so now I say again:  If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

The Three Angels’ Messages present the unconditional good news that, while mankind was helpless, ungodly, still sinners, and in enmity with God, they were reconciled (past tense) with Him by the death of His Son:

Romans 5:6-10
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

This has nothing to do with the heresy of universalism — the idea that God will eventually take all mankind to heaven.  God is love and does not force salvation on anyone.  The good news of salvation requires the response of faith to make it effective:

Romans 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:  first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:  “The righteous will live by faith.”

If Adventism is to preach the true Three Angels’ Messages, then it can no longer preach the old Armenian concept of “provisional” or “potential” salvation, which has been the norm for decades.  The Armenian gospel proclaims that, only after one believes, repents, and confesses past sins can God extend salvation.

This is certainly not good news, but “good advice” and a subtle form of legalism.  The Bible proclaims that God has already reconciled everyone to Himself and justified them through the life and death of His Son:

Romans 5:18
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

All that remains is that they accept that reconciliation, through faith in Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:18-20
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.

This message must be proclaimed in its fullness.  May that day come soon.


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